Once a popular destination for British climbers in the early days of winter sun trips, Montanejos seems to have dropped of the radar in recent years. The lack of popularity has no doubt been influenced by the publication of shiny new guides to areas such as Costa Blanca, El Chorro and Prades. As always information is king and it appears that Montanejos suffered for long periods with a poor guide and a need for many of the routes to be re-equipped. These problems have now been addressed. Local climber Ernesto López, has equipped many routes and placed many thousands of bolts. Ernesto published a new climbing guide in 2007.
To quote the front cover of the guide, Montanejos offers more than 1400 routes and 1700 pitches of climbing. Climbs range from short sport routes to inspiring multi pitch, fully equipped routes on impressive formations.
Sector Fisuras De La Carretera
Predictably the cliffs close to the Refugio, such as Sectores De Iniciación are very polished and suffer from the ubiquitous problems of rubbish, used toilet paper, dogs and kids. However if you walk up the Barranco (ravine) de la Maimona just a little further the quality of the climbing and general ambiance improves rapidly. We had a good day at Sector Xulo Panderas where there is a good selection of moderate routes in the low 6’s on well featured vertical walls. On the upper rim of the Barranco sector Placas Del Sol has a good concentration of highly rated routes. Access to this sector is via a footpath that starts 100m up the road from the Refugio. There are many more cliffs further up the Barranco de la Maimona which we didn’t get the chance to visit including the impressive prow of Espolón De Los Agujeros. La Luna looks like the route of choice here. This is a fully equipped 8 montanejos_guide-5.jpgpitch route which takes the most impressive part of the Espolón at a relatively amenable grade; 6a+, 6a, 6a+, 4b, 6b, 6a+, 6b, 6a+. At the head of the ravine another excellent looking, equipped multi pitch route is Diedro Del Negre on Final Del Barranco; 5b,6a, 6a, 6b, 5c. Both routes are equipped for abseil descent with a 60m rope (30m abs).
Espolón De Los Agujeros
The other main climbing sectors can be found by following the road a short way up the Rio Mijares. The principal sectors are Estrecho (narrow passage) De Mijares and Carretera Del Pantano (road of the pool/reservoir). Here there are some impressive, long single pitch and multi pitch routes in the mid to upper 6s, and 7th grade. Some routes follow prominent corner/groove systems and there’s even some long crack lines requiring gear which looked appealing to me but presumably, not to 99% of the climbing population. Above the Rio Mijares sectors there are some smaller crags which are approached by a variety of terraces and paths above the main sectors. These friendly little crags are not unlike many of the short crags in North Yorkshire; maybe not your first choice of venue in Spain but pleasant enough if you want a change from the longer routes.
There are some bouldering areas detailed in the guide, mainly traverses of unknown grades. Sector De Ernesto (no guesses for who developed this one), features a tiresome looking 40M overhanging traverse.
The Guide Book
The guide book is very good by modern standards with plenty of photo diagrams, maps, star ratings and tick boxes. The introduction and information pages are in English and Spanish. There’s no doubt that the quality of the information on offer will make a difference to the popularity of Montanejos. The only problem being the lack of availability. The guide is not available in the UK and the website at www.escaladaenmontanejos.com does not appear to be active. Of course you can buy the guide at the Refugio as soon as you arrive at Montanejos but it’s always useful to read a guide prior to a visit. You could try emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The nearest international airport to Montanejos is at Valencia, approximately 95km away. You can fly to Valencia with Easyjet from Gatwick. Alternatively a trip to Montanejos could easily be combined with visiting either Sierra De Prades or the Costa Blanca area. There are plenty of flights from all over the UK servicing either Reus in the north or Alicante in the south. Reus to Montanejos is 250km. Takes about 3 hours. Alicante to Montanejos is 291km. 3 - 4 hours driving.
Other Climbing in the Area
The spectacular climbing at Chulilla (more info on this area soon,) is 95km to the south east. There are lots crags to the east in the direction of Castellón which has its own guide, available at the Refugio.
Food and Beer
There is a bakery and a small supermarket on the Calle De Valencia. There is a lively and friendly local bar/restaurant in Plaza De La Iglesia which is easily found by wandering into the centre of the old town.
Where to Stay
Ernesto López runs the Refugio situated next to the bridge at the north end of town. In fact the guide uses the Refugio as a focal point for all the crag approaches. The rooms are pleasant and clean with excellent views. There is a car park and climbing on the doorstep at Bloques Del Refugio. In Oct 2010 dormitory places were €20/night including breakfast.
Camping seems to be actively discouraged in Montanejos itself. When I was there the old camping area on the hillside opposite the Refugio had ‘Privado’ signs all over it. If you have a camper van it is possible to stay under the bridge next to the Refugio. There is a reasonable municipal campsite 9km down the road in Cirat with toilets and cold showers; Take a right down a small concrete road as you are leaving the village heading east. Signed 'Zona De Pesca'. There is supposed to be a campsite 12km up the gorge in the picturesque town of of Puebla de Arenoso but we didn’t actually stay there and didn’t see any evidence of it so I’m not sure if it still exists.
The Hot Springs
Montanejos is a famous spar town. The hot springs are a constant 25°C all year round and even better they are free! Ideal to freshen up after a hard day at the crag. They are situated a short way up the gorge on the outskirts of town and can be identified by are large car park.